No other vegetable symbolizes the start of spring more than long, slender asparagus. The succulent spears begin to appear in home gardens sometime in early April — with the promise of strawberries and longer days of sunshine right on their heels.
While asparagus (part of the lily family) is available in grocery stores year-round these days, the best flavor and texture comes from just-harvested local stems. The earliest shoots are called “sprue,” and they’re usually very tender.
Asparagus can be enjoyed tossed in a pasta salad, included in a casserole, or suspended in a quiche, but it’s also delicious perfect when cooked and eaten all on its own. If you’ve created a habit of cooking asparagus stalks the same way every time, perhaps it’s time to try this vegetable another way. We get asparagus for as little as two months of the year, so act fast!
Here are 4 ways to prepare asparagus:
No matter your method, cooking asparagus should always start with two basic steps:
- Trim woody ends of asparagus by snapping them off or cutting with a knife.
- Rinse off your stems.
Roasted asparagus takes little effort but yields perfectly tender results. It’s also the most hands-off method.
- Preheat oven to 400ºF. Place asparagus on large baking sheet and toss generously with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- Roast for about 25 minutes, or until tender.
All you need is a hot skillet, and some simple ingredients.
- Using a large skillet on medium heat, heat a generous drizzle of olive oil. Add asparagus to skillet and cook about 7 minutes, or until tender. Season with salt and pepper. Squeeze a lemon wedge over top.
This healthy way doesn’t require any oil or butter. This method makes the stalks turn a gorgeous shade of green, so if presentation is most important, consider blanching.
- Fill a large pot with water and salt generously. Bring to a boil.
- Add chopped asparagus to pot and cook for about 3 minutes, or until tender.
- Using a slotted spoon, immediately remove asparagus and transfer to a large bowl of ice water to halt the cooking process. Store in fridge until needed. Drain and reheat in pan with a bit of butter if you want to serve warm.
When the weather is nice, everything gets grilled — why not asparagus? For crispy asparagus, grill directly on the grate — just lay stems perpendicular to prevent them from falling through. Or, for softer asparagus, you can create a steamed effect by wrapping spears in a foil to form a packet.
- Heat grill to medium high or high. Toss asparagus lightly with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer to grill and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until tender and crisp. (Thicker spears may take longer.) For more tender asparagus, stick with medium-high heat and cook for 10 minutes.
Also see, Asparagus tart with strawberry salsa.